The Monday Poem: ‘My Mother Goes to Vote’ by Judith Harris

The Monday Poem is brought to you by Professor Jim Gormley of the English Department. Enjoy!

My Mother Goes to Vote

By Judith Harris
We walked five blocks
to the elementary school,
my mother’s high heels
crunching through playground gravel.
We entered through a side door.
Down the long corridor,
decorated with Halloween masks,
health department safety posters—
we followed the arrows
to the third grade classroom.
My mother stepped alone
into the booth, pulling the curtain behind her.
I could see only the backs of her
calves in crinkled nylons.
A partial vanishing, then reappearing
pocketbook crooked on her elbow,
our mayor’s button pinned to her lapel.
Even then I could see—to choose
is to follow what has already
been decided.
We marched back out
finding a new way back down streets
named for flowers
and accomplished men.
I said their names out loud, as we found
our way home, to the cramped house,
the devoted porch light left on,
the customary meatloaf.
I remember, in the classroom converted
into a voting place—
there were two mothers, conversing,
squeezed into the children’s desk chairs.
Suffragists parade down Fifth Avenue, 1917. Advocates march in October 1917, displaying placards containing the signatures of more than one million New York women demanding the vote.  The New York Times Photo Archives

Suffragists parade down Fifth Avenue, 1917.
Advocates march in October 1917, displaying placards containing the signatures of more than one million New York women demanding the vote.
The New York Times Photo Archives

October 7 is a big day in Broome County. Many of the campus community will take part in a parade downtown commemorating women gaining the vote. With that in mind, Judith Harris’ poem seems fitting for this week.